Officials get serious in graft crackdown
Updated at 7.17pm:
As they ramp up for World Trade Organisation entry, mainland officials have reorganised government departments, convened a special State Council meeting and issued a series of biting media statements to foreshadow a massive crackdown on every shady deal from bogus new cars to illegal Internet bars.
Moreover, officials are plain angry. Premier Zhu Rongji has told the press he feels 'a strong sense of indignation'' and loses sleep when he hears reports on fraud.
Questioned by Chinese company leaders at the China Business Summit in Beijing this week, State Council Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo said China is working to bring order to the economy and make life fair for entrepreneurs and consumers.
Earlier this month, the State Council met to talk about ways to get rid of fake merchandise, expose injustices in project bids, break industry monopolies and expose illegal Internet cafes, according to a CCTV report.
To go after these problems, the State Council upgraded the State Administration for Industry and Commerce to a ministry level regulatory agency and merged two bureaux into the State General Administration of Quality Supervision and Quarantine.
Industry and commerce minister Wang Zongfu told Xinhua News Agency he has ordered tough action against illegal fireworks, illegal saunas, illegal massage parlors and shady video game parlours. He also noted plans to expose poorly processed or falsely labeled grain, cotton, oil and motor vehicles. He said he has seen reports on rice made whiter with industrial oil and tips about shops that make so-called new cars with parts from scrapped cars. Another plan would tackle smuggling, pyramid sales, exaggeration in advertisements, trademark violations and serial number deal-making.
If that were not enough the state also plans to go after construction contract bribes, tourism corruption and tighten inspection of liquor, tobacco and chemical fertiliser, which are often fake.
The examination will cover railway, postal, civil aviation and telecommunications sectors, which have taken advantage of their special positions by overcharging consumers, Mr Wang added. However, local analysts said the monopoly wouldn't be broken up as these industries are big taxpayers to state revenue.
The checkup of monopoly sectors started this month and will go through October. It is actually a task for the next five years, the minister said.
Inspectors in Beijing began by examining the insurance sector. Many insurance companies force people to buy coverage. For instance, elementary school students are required to buy accident insurance, and airline passengers may have to buy life insurance, according to Xinhua report. The state has handled 10,000 insurance disputes since 1990, but the caseload has kept increasing, Xinhua said.
Mr Wang also stressed the cleaning of law enforcement workers to prevent misconduct and corruption. China is still smarting from the Yuanhua scandal in Xiamen, the biggest smuggling affair in Chinese history. Smugglers bribed about 250 officials, including the local customs director.
This is not just another get-tough announcement.